Who doesn’t love summer vacation? The chance to sit back and relax on the beach, with a cold drink in hand, is something many of us look forward to all year. Done right, traveling is the perfect way to detach and de-stress from our busy lives–but done wrong, it can leave you needing a vacation after your vacation!
As a doctor, I’ve seen the damage over-indulgence can do to our minds and bodies. You don’t have to throw away all of those good habits you’ve spent so long building in the name of R&R. There is a way to enjoy yourself responsibly without feeling guilty or needing to hit the reset button on your health when you return – you can have your cake and eat [a reasonable-sized portion as an occasional treat] too.
Here are my top four tried & true tips to ensure you return from this year’s trip happier and healthier than ever:
1. Get up and move
“Sitting is the new smoking” is one of the hottest new catchphrases in health–leading office workers everywhere to embrace standing desks and walking meetings. The benefits of staying active aren’t constrained to work hours, however. Studies show that any extended sitting, such as on a plane, behind the wheel on a road trip, or even relaxing on that beach, can greatly increase one’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
So, if you’re on a long flight, be sure to get up every hour or so to walk down the aisle. Same goes for road trips – pull over at a rest stop to take in some new scenery and get your muscles moving. Enjoy a few of your favorite yoga poses. You might even discover some new places or meet some interesting people in the process.
Once you’ve arrived, plan some activities that will force you to get up and move. Hotel gym not your scene? No problem. If you’re around water, try stand-up paddle-boarding, snorkeling, or check in with locals for the best hikes. See if there’s a good yoga studio nearby. If you’re traveling to a city, avoid defaulting to taking a cab or public transit and try walking to your destination, when it’s safe. Walking is a low-impact way to get some exercise and find the cute boutiques and hidden gems that guide books may miss. Wherever you’re headed, make sure to always pack comfortable footwear to prevent injury and encourage activity.
2. Stay hydrated
As little as 1-2% dehydration can cause anything from headaches to fatigue to anxiety, and put a damper on your vacation. Dry, recycled air in jet cabins and alcohol consumed to celebrate (or cope) all contribute to dehydration and can leave you looking and feeling horrible upon arrival. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids before your flight and be sure to have at least one cup of water per hour on the plane. It’s best to bring an empty reusable water bottle and fill it up after going through security, since the glasses provided by the airlines offer only a few ounces of water.
At your destination, be aware of climate changes. Altitude, humidity and high temperatures can all cause dehydration–and quickly. To prevent the potentially trip-ruining effects of dehydration in a new climate, be sure to carry water with you at all times, especially in remote areas, and drink early and often to keep up with your needs.
3. Mind your appetite
Eating on vacation can be a battlefield – there are dietary assassins everywhere. All-you-can-eat buffets in Las Vegas, airport Cinnabons, and pina coladas on command in Cabo can be near-impossible to resist. To stay on track with your healthy eating habits, plan ahead. Know where to find healthy options at your destination and try to avoid tourist trap restaurants with deep fried, over sauced, enormous portions. Instead, embrace local cuisine, especially when it relies heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables.
To discourage buying high caloric airport or gas station food, bring snacks for the plane or car like sliced fruit and vegetables, nuts, or bars with 5 or fewer ingredients. But don’t forget, snacks have calories too – a few hours of mindless snacking can result in the consumption of more than a meal’s worth of calories.
When you do indulge, and we all must sometimes, think holistically – how does that sugar-filled drink or dessert fit in with what else you are consuming that day or that week? How much do you actually need to feel satiated? It’s much easier to “save room” for dessert if you’re staying active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The number one tip to improve summer travel is to just relax. Easier said than done right? Start by “unplugging.” This can look different depending on who you are, how you work, and the job you have (please don’t unplug the bat phone, Bruce!), but the key is to identify those stress triggers that get your heart and mind racing and filter them out, even if it’s just for short periods of time.
If you can’t go a week without checking in, try confining work to a set amount of time at a specific time of day and leaving your phone behind. If that’s not an option, consider rearranging your apps temporarily so those that may tempt you to fall into work mode are hidden on a page or in a folder that requires a few extra swipes or taps. Also consider modifying your notification settings so you can experience those few fleeting moments of relaxation to their fullest, without frequent interruptions. Remember, your mind needs the break as much as your body, so make sure both are present for the vacation.
Lastly, be sure to leave ample time in your plans for sleep and relaxation. It can be tempting to overschedule every minute, especially when there are so many exciting things to do and see, but this can quickly lead to burnout. Sleep in, take naps as needed, and take a moment to be thankful.
The benefits of taking a vacation are myriad, including improved physical health, mental health and cognitive function – but not taking care of yourself during travel can cause more harm than good. If you follow these steps to stay healthy on the road, you could come back so refreshed you might even boost the mental health of those around you.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr. Hanson Lenyoun, an alum of Columbia Med School + former top plastic surgeon. Dr. Lenyoun has made it his life’s mission to spread the word on how to get–and stay–hydrated. As Mark One’s Head of Health, Dr. Lenyoun has spent two years perfecting Pryme Vessyl, the world’s most personalized hydration device. Using Dr. Lenyoun’s own proprietary hydration algorithm, Pryme Vessyl determines the exact volume of water that any individual needs to consume in the moment to meet their specific needs. How cool is that?!